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Breast Cancer Prevention 101

In case you’ve missed all of the pink, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Aside from genetic factors and age (risk increases as we get older), there are many controllable lifestyle factors that influence one’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Food factors

The best diet for breast cancer prevention is the best diet for prevention of most chronic diseases! Dietary patterns consisting mostly of plant-based foods are the most healthful. This includes plenty of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, and nuts.

What about soy?

Because soy foods such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame contain estrogen-like compounds, there has been some fear that soy foods can increase risk of breast cancer. This fear is unfounded. Soy foods are not only safe to eat, but they are considered a high quality source of protein. Soy foods also contain a variety of cancer fighting and cholesterol lowering compounds. If you’re not feeling so confident about your tofu and tempeh culinary skills, introduce soy into your diet in the form of soy nuts or plain, unsweetened soy milk.

Activity factors

Regular physical activity most days of the week has been shown to be protective of most cancers, including breast cancer. Any activity you enjoy doing that gets your heart rate up for about 30 minutes per day counts. If you don’t have time to get 30 minutes all at once, break it up into smaller chunks throughout the day. Take a short walk or climb some stairs-the minutes will add up!

Other factors

Age of first menses, age of menopause, age of having children, and breast feeding are other factors that influence risk of breast cancer. Age of first menses and age at menopause affect lifetime exposure to estrogen. Therefore, women who start menstruating at an early age and who begin menopause at an older age have a longer lifetime exposure to estrogen than women who have a later onset of menses and/or an earlier onset of menopause. Longer lifetime exposure to estrogen may increase risk of breast cancer.

Finally, childbearing and breast feeding affect breast cancer risk. Having a child before age 30 years and breastfeeding are both protective of breast cancer. Even if breastfeeding is short-lived, every month of breastfeeding helps decrease breast cancer risk.

Detection starts with screening

Getting screened for breast cancer is one of the most important things you can do for your health. This is because catching breast cancer in its early stages improves chances of treatment and survival.

While screening guidelines have been recently revised, most doctors continue to suggest that women should start getting annual mammograms at age 40. Women with a family history of breast cancer may start screening earlier.

Whatever your personal risk factors are-it's never too late to make positive health behavior changes!


Interested in learning all of the details plus guidance on how to follow a whole food anti-inflammatory eating plan? Check out the Anti-Inflammatory Solution!

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